Saturday September 29th

Getting up at 330 is way to common in my trip reports lately but I was excited and tired all at the same time. I hit the gym early to try and work out that excitement since it was going to be a long day.Β  I was heading south to Los Angeles for the Aviation Dorkfest. A gathering organized by Brett aka @crankyflier.

I had met Brett last year during my round the world trip and was an avid reader of his blog and have used his service (cranky concierge) during my trip last year. The 2nd Annual Dorkfest was going to be held at the In n Out at LAX. Right under the approach to the airport. Burgers, planes and just lots of #avgeek times. What better way to spend a day.

I had told my friend David of @AirlineReporter fame about the day and in the end a a Virgin America sale sealed the deal. Add to that a priceline bids for a convertible at $40 and hell a good day it was looking to be. David showed up at my place and we headed off in the early Seattle morning still pitch black outside. The freeway was empty and we parked up at the Light Rail station to be cheap skates for the day as parking was free (and my Orca got me a free ride).

From Dorkfest 2012

We just missed a tram when we arrived so we had to wait a bit but it was an easy ride to the airport for day trips on weekends I am so doing that more often. Not a hassle or care in the world. By the time we got to the airport and had checked in, things were looking up. An upgrade to First Class. Don’t mind if I do!

Security wasn’t totally horrible but it was a little slow. No nude o scope for me, not even a small hassle at all. By the time we got through security and walked to the gate, boarding had just started. I still love First Class with Virgin America. Big comfy white seat, Wifi, Satellite TV, good food and drink. What more do you want?

From Dorkfest 2012

Virgin America VX780
Seattle to Los Angeles
Airbus A320 (N642VA – “breanna jewel”)
First Class – Seat 1C (originally 21A, then 2F)

Boarding: 0640 (Gate A6)
Push Back: 0709
Take Off Roll: 0716 (Runway 34R)
Top of Descent: 0900
Touch Down: 0924 (Runway 24L)
Shut Down: 0927 (Gate 35)

We pushed back after a number of photos, a couple of cups of coffee, a visit to the cockpit and some wondering if I am going to be booted out of my seat (since I didn’t expect an upgrade at all). The flight was great. The one issue, no IFE, even after two reboots, I gave up and read my magazine.Β  Breakfast was served on our flight South with a hot or cold choice. The cold was lighter of the two (Granola, fruit & Banana Bread) and washed down with about 5 or 6 cups of coffee (I was needing it bad).

From Dorkfest 2012
From Dorkfest 2012

A quick descent into LAX but then we kind of burnt donuts in the sky for a bit. Either way it wasn’t bad. The crew were awesome all lead by a stunning tall blonde female Captain. Did I mention how much I like Virgin America right now πŸ˜‰

From Dorkfest 2012

Ww touched down in Los Angeles and we were off the plane in moments heading towards the Hertz shuttle, towards our convertible. No need to beg for a good car, they offered me a Mustang without a need for a prompt, even a choice of colors. Hello silver Mustang. Aren’t you awesome. Looking like a great day. My muscle car list is almost complete, next up… Challenger.

From Dorkfest 2012

We took a few pics at In n Out, picked up a few other people coming in from Dallas, and headed up to Imperial Hill for a few early photos. As the Dorkfest began we headed over to In n Out. The Dorkfest was great, meeting people, chatting, lots of spotting and a mix of crap backlit shots but some good ones thrown in as well.Β  A couple of A380s were about the high light spotting wise, most of the good stuff was landing on the south side as usual with my luck.

From Dorkfest 2012
From Dorkfest 2012

I dropped someone back at the terminal and then it was time for lunch. I had been looking forward to this for a week. One of the best things about spotting at LAX is In n Out. The burger, the atmosphere, good times! But looking back over the burgers I have had over the last few weeks, I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong I still love In n Out. The burger is delicious. Fresh, well made, good ingredients, tasty. The fries always taste great then straight after I always think “why did I have that cause they never have that crunch I want.”

From Dorkfest 2012

But compared to the burgers I’ve had lately its just not as good. For me the thing that makes In n Out special is the location really. The location just increases the awesomeness of it all, makes the beef all that tastier, the cheese all that cheesier. The fries all that more limper (though they taste awesome with some ketchup). In n Out is more about the experience, the feeling, that special feeling you get for flying two hours for a burger I could get better at home. Why do it then? Cause on days like today I can meet new people, enjoy the things I love doing and share it with like minded people. All while having that elusive treat.

I was totally content after lunch. I could of sat back, watched the planes go by and spent my time soaking in the sun. We headed back over to Imperial Hill and did just that really. How could I not have loved the day. I did manage to get myself a parking ticket ($33 for parking on the wrong side of the road), but it didn’t dampen my mood. Hell even the sunburn was worth it.Β  Regretfully we dropped off the Mustang, and was back on the shuttle heading to the airport.

From Dorkfest 2012
From Dorkfest 2012

No hassles at check in, no upgrades, hell there was barely a line at security, though I was nude o scoped and managed to forget the quarter I put in my shoe. Talked our way into what is now the new Virgin Australia lounge which looks so much better than the last time I was in there. Back then it was the Alaska Airlines Boardroom. Now it looks Damn awesome, the views are still epicly good though. I felt wrong having anything more than some water, but I was more interested in a comfy seat and no crowds.

From Dorkfest 2012
From Dorkfest 2012

We headed down to our gate and I found out we had no one next to us so even though we weren’t getting an upgrade a free middle seat is just as nice. But then it happened. Delay. A 10-15 min delay. That turned into longer as out gate changed, our 320 had gone technical πŸ™ Swapped to a 319. That meant less chance of keeping that free middle seat. Eh easy come easy go.

From Dorkfest 2012

Virgin America VX795
Los Angeles to Seattle
Airbus A319 (N522VA – “the 1-year-old virgin”)
Main Cabin (Economy) – Seat 21A

Boarding: 1707 (Gate 34)
Push Back: 1735
Take Off Roll: 1742 (Runway 24L)
Top of Descent: 1932
Touch Down: 1954 (Runway 24L)
Shut Down: 2000 (Gate 35)

Boarding was eventually called and we had to wait till Group C. Off to the back we go, all the way to the last row. But it would be good cause I had never flown straight economy before. First & Main Cabin Select I have experienced, normal old Main Cabin would be different. My tv worked, the Longhorns game was on, I would get a free Soda. The flight couldn’t be all that bad.

From Dorkfest 2012

By the time we took off, I was enjoying the game and kept on enjoying it as we cruised north, back to my new home. To be honest it was just like any other flight. Up, Down and a long bit in the middle. I worked on the trip report , joked around a bit, even tried to order drinks to the free middle seat (they never showed up though). My body started to slowly shut down as the sun started to set on an awesome day. We came in directly from the south, on a direct approach to the 34 runways. By the time we had touched down, we were quite late but to be honest, I was just looking forward to a nice lie down and a bucket of water for my face since it was totally sunburnt (and most of our jokes revolved around said sunburn). As we were the last people right up the back, we were last off the plane. ah well!

From Dorkfest 2012
From Dorkfest 2012
From Dorkfest 2012
From Dorkfest 2012

We made our way back through SeaTac, back through the car park, back to the Light rail station and the next Tram was due to leave just minutes later and within 10 minutes we were in the Truck… reversing the same journey we had taken just that morning. An end on a fantastic day!

A while ago there was these lovely mistake fares from Yangon (Burma/Myanmar) to San Francisco in First class for a very very very very very low amount of money. I missed out, and then it happened again. I missed out again. I swore to myself that if it ever happened again and it was still live when i found out, I would not hesitate I would whip out the credit card, book it and deal with the aftermath later.

Well… it happened again last night. Frantic organising of Credit Card info, working with Travelocity’s website and playing with my calendar of dates when I can, I finally got it to work. The booking accepted (6th attempt) and my credit card was charged (apparently… more to come on that).

I managed to get the final routing for $561….

Mon, Jul 22, 2013 Yangon (RGN) to Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT)
Depart: 09:30pm
Arrive: 06:50am
Next day
Rangoon, Myanmar (RGN) to
Tokyo, Japan (NRT)
All Nippon Airways
Flight 914 Business Class
(on Boeing 737)
Requested Seats: 1K

Tue, Jul 23, 2013 Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) to Zurich Airport (ZRH)
Depart: 10:25am
Arrive: 03:50pm
Tokyo, Japan (NRT) to
Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH)
Swiss Intl Air Lines
Flight 161 First Class
(on Airbus A340-300)

Wed, Jul 24, 2013 Zurich Airport (ZRH) to Montreal Trudeau International Airport (YUL)
Depart: 12:50pm
Arrive: 03:00pm
Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH) to
Montreal, QC Canada (YUL)
Swiss Intl Air Lines
Flight 86 First Class
(on Airbus A330-300)

Yeah you read that right… $561 for like 20 hours in Swiss First Class. Hell freaking yes! I did everything I could to get it to work with the Frankfurt First Class Terminal on Lufthansa for the dates I wanted but it just would not work, this was the next best thing.

Now comes the waiting game. I never recieved an email confirmation, I can find the booking on both ANA & Swiss’s website but neither show an E Ticket number. Therefore my booking has not yet been ticketed.. which doesn’t bode well for it to be honoured… but.. If it goes through.. im going! If it doesn’t no loss. I will hold off a couple of weeks yet before booking down to Yangon… although how I am going to get there is a whole other story. I have plenty of points up my sleep for some Economy seats so that shouldnt be an issue. Now the waiting game begins (don’t worry you will all be kept updated!)

Managed to tick another book off my classics list.

War of the Worlds

This time it is War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. This is a classic book if there ever was one. Dating way way back it is something you should probably have read on school, I just never did.

The book surprised me in a number of ways. First off let me say that if you have seen any movie in the past about War of the Worlds (and I’m not just talking about the Tom Cruise crap fest from a few years ago) you have no idea what the book is like. Sure the overall gist is the same, Martians invade earth,Β  but that’s it. Everything is had seen to this point always lead me to believe it was about Martians landing in the USA. Nope, in the book its actually London. That was the first shock. The second was just how the book flowed. It was written kind of like a biography almost (similar to Moby Dick) and didn’t at all feel like a piece of fiction. It felt more like a historical piece.

Overall the book was good, not to short, not to long. Not boring yet not overly thrilling. Definitely makes me now want to see one of the movies and judge it while ripping it to shreds thinking “you butchered it”, but I know why the movies were changed so much from the book, you would be bored sitting in a theater watching a direct copy of that book in movie format. You would demand your money back so quickly.

The book was a read I would recommend if you have the time, pretty sure you should find it out there on the free lists. It should help kill some time.

Funnily enough I had been wanting to write this post for about a week now but things always get in the way causing me to stress… which was the whole point of wanting to write this post.

Lately I have had so much stress on me, most of it caused by situations that could be handled by the people causing them so much better. But I won’t go into that. What I have been noticing is that when I’m already stressed things compound quicker no matter what I do. It’s like that old quicksand adage, the more you move the quicker you sink.

I used to deal with stress at work by making sure that I didn’t take stuff home with me, but that’s just not practical some days, I also used to make sure I left my desk to take breaks, again not always practical (I actually haven’t taken a proper lunch break in almost 6 weeks, let alone a the 1 actual 10 minute break I’ve taken in a month).

A number of things cause stress in my life (and In everyone else’s).Β  A number of them affect everyone (work & dealing with public transport come to mind) but that is life. The joys of everyday life. We all try to cope in our own little ways. I have been struggling to find an outlet lately that will help me cope at times. Till I realized I was doing it all along and just not realizing.

After a really stressful day (more like week) I made sure I got my butt to a boot camp session no matter how late I was going to be. Everyone else was late that day so my 10 minute delay was fine. By the end of the session I was feeling much better, relaxed for the first time all day. Was that my answer now? Was exercise my outlet? Looking back it has been an outlet for a while. That early morning run, the boxing class to work your arms out, the morning walk to the bus stop. Had I really changed so much that this was now relieving stress?

I never realized just how much those days were helping me out when I just pushed myself to take that extra km or work that little bit harder, I always felt better after I just never realized I was coping with my own stress. At least now I don’t feel like that extra bit of exercise is causing me pain to my body or my life (by taking away time I could be doing other things) in fact it’s helping me deal and cope with life, and of course helping me stay fit in the process

Well tonight was the 2nd of 3 burger installments for September. But this one was meant to be pretty neat. It was definately more what I was expecting for a “typical” American burger… well.. in some ways. Last Saturday was chatting with Dan and he told me about a place in Mukilteo (about 5-10 minutes drive away, just down the road from Future of Flight really. It was a crazy place, part burger joint, part Avgeek nirvana. The way he described it, I was in! Z’s Burgers it was to be!

They close kind of early on a Saturday night (8pm) so considering we were there at 7 it was REALLY quiet, which kind of breaks my rules about eating in empty places. BUT i think its cause it was just “late” for them. Most people think that it would of been closed. At least the sun gave a half decent show as it went down over Whidbey Island. Snapped a couple of photos of the sunset as usual

From Expat Life
From Expat Life

But the main attraction was Z’s burgers itself. Being that they are just near the Boeing Factory, its all Boeing here baby! Aircraft on the walls, aircraft on the roof, aircraft on the counter. It was all boeing and it was all awesome! There was also a good stock of Coke memoribilia in the corner but I was here for the Avgeekiness of this place.

From Expat Life

Hell even the burgers are named after Boeing planes!

From Expat Life

Who seriously isn’t going to try the 747! So i ordered it, all the while being told I will regret that decision in life. But I just had to at least once try it! We sat up at the window for a little while, but it was getting a bit chilly so moved further indoors. The burgers are cooked to order so ours took about 10 minutes or so, which is fine with me, I like them fresh. Just before I go into how the burger tasted. Lets look at the description of the “747 Jumbo Burger”. A Cheeseburger with Ham, Turkey and a Grilled Hot Dog. Yep thats right. The wierdest ever hamburger I have ever seen. To hell with it! This is right in the territory of my Man vs Food showdowns but they should of had this place on it!

From Expat Life

The burger was DAMN good. Yeah it may sound wierd and the hot dog did give it the wierdest texture. But the Ham worked and the Turkey to some extent. But everything on it was super fresh. When looking at burgers like this, it reminds me of the Fish & Chip shop burgers back home. Fresh, tasty, a nice looking bun filled with awesome looking ingrediants. A sauce that runs down your hands and arms and requires mountains of Napkins (the sauce actually was pretty close to what is on a Big Mac, not sure how they managed that!).

Add on the fact that Z’s burgers is Avgeek heaven, fresh made burgers, good size, price wasn’t bad $10 for burger, drink and a freaking huge burger is pretty good if you ask me! This was the type of Burger place here in the USA I was looking for. A mom and pop place that is 100% local and totally crazy to boot! This kind of place you would expect off the highway somewhere remote, not in the middle of Subrubia, down the road from one of the largest buildings in the world.

From Expat Life

I did finish the burger by the way… but barely.. Couldnt get through all my fries.. #fail? Nah #win! The end of the burger chronicles will be next Saturday… with the Ultimate avgeek burger journey.

Well i have been so slack lately in updating but to my own defence I have been both slack, busy, stressed and just totally not in the mood to post.

Life has been pretty up and down the last week wtih way to much stress lately both Work and Personal related, but with the weekend approaching it should lessen this. What I am looking forward to now is October (well actually starting sep 29th, next Saturday). There is going to be some epics times coming up next month with Seattle Restaurant Week dates and menus released (planning already underway to visit a couple), Friends coming to visit, a quick day trip to LAX for some spotting, shenanigans cross border, road trips and probably some unpacking as well!

My stuff that was shipped to me months ago is somewhere between Seattle and Los Angeles and hopefully I will get it next week sometime as I really miss my bike (bet you never thought you would hear that word) and I have to take some time this week to give the camera a decent clean ready for some pretty heavy duty it is going to get over the next few weeks (probably a good 2000 or 3000 photos to go on it).

Pretty much my life is all good, nothing I can’t handle and the stress, although its there, is nothing more than normality really. the things you deal with in life.

So I do like a good burger. A while back (pretty sure it may have been memorial day weekend) I posted my review of Red Mill Burger which was spot #2 in my Man vs Food Trilogy. But I had been chatting with one of my friends over here Daniel who swore black and blue the best burgers were at Red Robin. I really wasn’t sure, because to be honest I have had some good burgers in my life. I had flown down to LAX just for a Burger in July (funnily enough… that may happen again soon πŸ˜‰ ) and have always enjoyed In n Out. But I don’t usually like fast food burgers to much, I like me a good burger that’s been made well.

Sure the burger can come from a semi fast food place like Red Mill, but i don’t count that as true “Fast Food” cause sure as hell it wasn’t fast. I waited in line longer than it took for me to eat the burger. That to me is not a sign of fast food but GOOD food. A Place that puts effort into its food. So Daniel had made a big call saying that the Burgers were good. I was determined to make him prove it. So without much on the plans for the weekend, and both of us free Saturday night. We decided to hit up Red Robin.

The weather was pretty damn good yesterday (1 day of rain in almost 2 months can NOT be complained about), it wasn’t to cold so I decided to walk to Red Robin as its about a mile away and enjoy the evening as the Sun set. That way i wouldnt feel as guilty. The sun sure didn’t dissapoint.

By the time we got to Red Robin it was pretty packed. I was there first so got our name on the list and few minutes later Daniel joined me and while we waited the sun finished setting off Brilliantly.

We moved inside as it was getting close to the end of our “expected wait” of about 10 minutes and the place was still pumping. This suprised Daniel a bit as he expected it to be a bit slower. I had no expectations but if this is a normal Saturday night… damn he must be right. They had the college football game on some of the screens around and even on the TV sets in the floor! It felt more like a Bar mixed with a Diner. Booths and Tables, a bar area off to one side. It looked pretty good to be honest. By the time we got our table we had to wait a bit, the service wasn’t the best overall but to be honest, I’ve had worse in Australia. It wasn’t the worst I have had over here, but it wasn’t good to start.

I didn’t even chose what Burger i wanted from the menu, Daniel told me that I had to try the “Royal Robin” as it was exactly what he had his first time there. I was up for whatever so I took his advice. The kitchen was pumping out the goods but it didn’t look sloppy or anything like that. The food all looked good. We got our burgers ordered and a side of “Towering Onion Rings” and i was told to be impressed. The menu was pretty good, plenty of burgers (obviously) but also a good selection of salads and other items and plenty of stuff for the kids. The Milkshakes looked good, but a bit to big for me. All the burgers came with Bottomless Steak Fries (to be honest my favourite kind of fry) and the thought of Bottomless Rootbeer Floats sounded good till I saw how big they were and then had 2nd thoughts.

First up was our Onion Rings.

Now the onion rings were good, don’t get me wrong. They were definately not on the same scale of goodness that the Red Mill Burger onion rings were, but they were definately better than the generic frozen ones they serve at Hungry Jacks/Burger King or most places. So that was a win. It came with two sauces, Ranch Dressing & Campfire Sauce, of which I preffered the Camp Fire Sauce. It was slightly smokey and went well with the Onion rings. But then the goodness arrived.

The Royal Robin is described on their menu as:

This is the aristocrat of all burgers because we crown it with a fresh fried egg. It’s topped with hardwood-smoked bacon, American cheese, crisp lettuce, fresh tomatoes and mayo.

And it looked good. It looked fresh & Tasty and not at all fast foodish as I expected considering they are a chain restaurant. So definately winning out here. After a few bites I was sold. The burger was damn good. Now is it the “best” burger in Seattle. I don’t know. But is it the “best” burger I have ever eaten…. Dunno on that call either. Is it the best burger I’ve had lately… yeah. We were discussing the merits of Burgers and decided although In N Out are not that great, the LAX store is more about the location and atmosphere than the burger itself and it kind of has a bit of an advantage of Atmosphere. Red Mill has the better onion rings, but Red Robin had the winner of the 3 burgers in my opinion.

Plans were made for another burger outage next weekend and as we were both pretty full, Daniel made his way to his car to drive himself home, while I walked home to make me feel less guilty… Which i don’t at all.

Finished a book from my classics list today

Moby Dick

The book is the classic tale of Moby Dick by Herman Melville. This book has been around for quite some time as it was written in 1851 so truly one of the oldest books I have ever read (i think the bible is the oldest, if that counts). The book is a tale of adventure on the open sea. It is the epic story of Man vs Beast as Captain Ahab takes on the White Whale, Moby Dick.

However this isn’t exactly how I thought it was going to be. The book was definately a bit more old fashioned and written in that old style that is a little bit hard to follow at times (but I coped) and it jumped around a lot going here and there so it was a little tough to follow sometimes. The writing was definately not always easy to follow and at times i was actually a little bored as it explained a lot of things about whales, not really a fictional tale and felt more like a non fiction story of someones report on whaling in the 1850s.

Either way the book was definately something to tick off my Classics list and it was not all that bad! I can’t really complain at all.

A year ago today, I was sitting in the SilverKris lounge at Singapore’s Changi Airport (the one in T3) and ending what was the most unbelievable journey I have had around the world. I had spent over 2 months, journeying around the world visiting new countries, meeting new people and just having a blast. I was sad to see it all end, but I did have the comfort of enjoying the lounge with my friend Cat. Little did I know, this lounge visit would change my life.

While heading to the buffet for a coffee top up, I saw someone sitting at one of the tables who I thought I knew, considering there was a coffee stand that way, I took a swing around that way to suss it out. The person who I thought it was, turned out to be him. The owner of the company I worked for at the time. It was surreal. We sat down and caught up and had a good chat about travelling, work, how hard it was going to be to go back to work etc for me. We got to chatting about where I would be going in the future. I told him the truth that I wasn’t sure, that I didn’t get my green card for the USA but some friends were tempting me to go and live and work in Canada. We got to chatting and he dropped a bombshell. If I wanted a job in the USA, he could help with that.

My head span, my mind was going a million miles an hour. The first words out of my mouth were “Don’t be joking with me on that” Considering I had been wanting to work/live in the USA for a good 5 years by that stage, with attempts previously failed. I did not want to get my hopes up. He was serious, I told him that I would have an answer to him in a couple of weeks when I would see him next, as I needed time to think it over and we were quickly approaching boarding time for both our flights (actually departing only a few gates away).

Well, we all know just how that turned out? Because here I sit, in my apartment in Seattle. I am one happy man because life is just the way I have wanted it for so long. Sure things took a bit longer than expected to get over here, but no journey is ever without its ups and downs. So on this one year anniversary of the end of a massive trip, I don’t want to think of it as an ending, but more on a beginning, the beginning of a new journey. A journey towards my future… one that I am incredibly grateful for.

Well today is my first ever Football Sunday here in the USA and to be honest, I could not be happier. This morning I was super happy when the Patriots played the Titans (and won mind you) but because it was a 1pm Eastern game time, meant a 10am start over here in the West. So I made sure I had done some of my chores before even that time. I made sure I had done all my grocery shopping and everything before even having breakfast, that way I could sit down at 10am and enjoy at least the first half of the game in relative comfort, eating my breakfast, having some coffee and just relaxing. Before of course resuming my usual Sunday morning of cleaning.

Anyway it was a great game, and the Pats won (although I missed the end of the game as my sirius subscription doesn’t cover the NFL πŸ™ ) and It was a great start to the year. The Longhorns won their game to (45-0 against New Mexico) so for my first weekend of American football in my new home (now im glad i dont have to get up at 3am to watch the games) I am super happy.

Heres to more Football!!!